FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Your husband's unit is deployed. Maybe the phone rings in the middle of the night, or while you're out shopping - there has been a casualty. Before the details have even settled, you're putting a plan in place. There's an overnight bag in the car. The kids will need transportation to or from school. That luncheon will have to wait. It is the call every spouse dreads ... but you, at least, are prepared. As part of a Family Readiness Group Care Team, you're trained to be a first-responder in times of tragedy.

"The Care Team is essential in providing that logical and emotional support to a Family immediately after notification (of a casualty)," said Charlotte Watson, Survivor Outreach Services program manager, Fort Bragg. "It allows the Family to focus on themselves, instead of all the things that go with that notification of a loss," she added.

It also takes a high degree of emotional intuition to navigate the various scenarios. Some would rather grieve alone. And others welcome the love and support.

"Remember, the key to supporting the Family is to take cues from the Family you are supporting. Be flexible and adaptable as the situation changes and never lose sight of the fact that the Family is the primary focus. Your role is to help make the transition a little easier. Your support should not add to the Family's difficulties in any way," states the U.S. Army Care Team Handbook.

The role of a Care Team member tests the strongest of volunteers. The hours are often unpredictable, the situations intense and emotions are high.

Army Regulation 600-8-1 determines the nature of a casualty, which includes a Soldier who is "beleaguered, besieged, captured, dead, diseased, detained, duty status whereabouts unknown, injured, ill, interned, missing in action or wounded." If a Soldier's spouse or child dies, the Care Team is also on hand to help.

In deciding whether to deploy a Care Team, the key word is 'tragedy'. If a Soldier endures a calamity of any sort, that pain radiates through the Family and requires an Army-led intervention. Whether that help arrives in the form of childcare, meal preparation, transportation, information updates or a shoulder to cry upon, the aim is to be of short-term, practical assistance. But Care Teams are encouraged to set boundaries too. They refrain from grief counseling, financial assistance, explanation of Army benefits, charity donations or funeral arrangements.

"Let the Family maintain control over what they can reasonably do for themselves," is a guideline given at Care Team trainings, the advanced-level FRG courses that a person must attend before being assigned to a team. Although training is provided by Survivor Outreach Services, each battalion is responsible for implementing the program according to its needs. Teams usually consist of three to four people, and each member commits to the position for a year.

At Fort Bragg, the three-hour training sessions include a visitation by a survivor. The Family member shares his or her experience and how the Care Team provided specific support during those critical first hours.

The length of support ranges from three days to two weeks, depending on the situation. If extended Family or close friends remain at the home, the Care Team may only offer fringe support, but if Family member(s) are truly alone, the team takes a more active role.

"It gives a better understanding (of the program). I can see the benefit of having the survivor there to share 'this is what you can do to help a survivor'," said Watson.
Upcoming Care Team training is March 31, 6 to 9 p.m. To reserve a slot, call 432-3742.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16